Primary Sources: Does Running Away Increase Chances of Pregnancy?


Photograph of a pregnant teen outdoors.Impact of Running Away on Girls’ Pregnancy” (abstract). Journal of Adolescence, Vol. 35, No. 2 (April 2012).

What it’s about: The authors wanted to know whether girls who run away were more likely than other girls to become pregnant during their teen years. They studied more than 5,000 girls who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, known as Add Health, in 1995 and 1996, and who were not pregnant in 1995. Participants had answered questions about school, their families, their sexual health and experiences, and other aspects of their lives.

Why read it: Some research suggests that adolescent girls who live on their own are more likely to engage in risky sex than those who live with a family or in an institution, like a group home. Girls who become pregnant may also be more likely to get sexually transmitted diseases or to get pregnant again. Programs that prevent girls from running away may also help keep them from having these problems.

Biggest takeaway for youth workers: Running away more than doubled a girl’s chances of teen pregnancy in the year following her run. Other factors that appear to increase the odds of a teen pregnancy for young women include being sexually victimized, having romantic relationships, and not being engaged at school.

The findings suggest that it may be a good idea to coordinate teen pregnancy prevention efforts with programs that aim to prevent youth from running away. Similarly, reaching out to young women who seem to be at risk for a range of dangerous behaviors, before or after they run away, may help to prevent pregnancy.

Additional references: The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) began in 1994. It originally looked at the ways social contexts—friends, family, neighborhood, school, romantic relationships—influence teen health. Now, it is studying health in young adulthood.

Let’s Talk is an evidence-based runaway prevention curriculum from the National Runaway Switchboard.

NCFY’s “A New Push for Teen Pregnancy Prevention” looks at advances in the teen pregnancy prevention field and approaches for working with boys and teen moms on pregnancy prevention.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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